When the Desert Called Me Home...

I've lived by the rolling gray ocean for nine years.

In order to answer the question, why did I return to the desert?  I had to dig deep, bury my head in the sand.  For once, I dug and I buried not to get lost but to find my own treasure, to find the answer to this deep question: Why did I return?  

 

My return to the desert was not logical.  It runs much deeper than that.  The answer is deep inside me, it’s buried in my bones, and to unearth this skeleton takes deep work.  I am an archaeologist working to excavate the tombs long laid to rest deep inside myself.  The answer to the question, Why did I return?  is simple and profound.  I came back because I was called.  I answered my own prayers with action: this action compelled in me great movement.  So I wrapped, so carefully, the things that still were important to me, I cloaked my precious animal in warm blankets and I prepared myself with ample water and food.  And together we crossed the sixteen hundred miles that lay between me and the home I left but never, ever forgot.  We crossed the sixteen hundred miles back to my animal’s birthplace, and my home: the silent, golden desert.  

 

This place is raw, its light is truth.  I’d lost it up in the clouds, and for a while I contented myself by thinking that I would once again know its warmth someday even if I wasn’t standing in its sunlit rays.  But time in the clouds taught me this: you can’t, and you definitely shouldn’t, wait for the atmosphere to change.  If you feel the calling, you must muster all of your internal reserves and move towards that thing, that place that calls you home.  So I did.

 

I am home now.  The people are different, but the place is the same.  Here it’s blistering in July and radiant in November.  Here the people speak openly, and connect more openly.  Here my animal is happy passing his days inside and out, living his dream of constant comfort plus a wild new land that holds undiscovered nooks and creatures he hasn't even dreamed of yet.  We come and go as we please. 

 

I drove up to the old Lookout the other day, and I remembered my past here in greater detail.  For the first time in my life I was afraid during the drive up high.  Before, fueled by the energy of adolescence and minus any fear for my safety, I careened up this desert mountain road ignorant of the rocks and potholes that would so easily divert a car off its intended path.  That day I drove slowly, hugging the edge closest to the mountain, praying I’d make it safely.  This was new to me.  Finally I got to the top and I saw green, gold, purple, turquoise and peach coloring the vista of land and sky laid out before me.  I saw blue, bright sky blue, that told me I was high.  Thin jetstreams of clouds crossed the sky, and over those birds flew in crisscrossing patterns that made sense only to them.  As I stood and I paced across this place I got to know it again, and the thought came back: I am home.  It’s been a while, nothing has changed and everything has changed.  And I am home.  

 

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I took those pictures and I started the slow climb down the mountain.  As I drove I passed a couple in cowboy hats, riding their gorgeous horses through winding desert trails that asked them to follow a mountain road for just a moment, long enough to put their trust in the few drivers descending from the Lookout.  I slowed down for them, out of respect for horse and horseman.  They nodded and I smiled and the horses proceeded cautiously.  It was a good moment.  I wished it were longer.

 

I am here for the turquoise.  I am here for the views.  I am here for the food.  I am here for the horses and horsemen and hats.  I am here for the way the sunlight slants up under old awnings at a certain time in the afternoon, asking you if you’re sure you’d rather go inside just yet.  There is something about this special environment that breathes a solid, quiet but palpable question into my consciousness, asking me “Are you sure?  Are you ready?”

Yes: yes, I believe I am.  

Emilie Wilson